Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Wollongong has made a mercy dash to embark two injured Australians who were rescued by an Indonesian merchant vessel in the Arafura Sea.
An Indonesian registered civilian offshore supply ship, MV POSH Shearwater, initially responded to a vessel in distress call and rescued the two men from their sinking craft on 14 May.
The transfer from the POSH Shearwater was made using a winchable Paraguard Stretcher onto Wollongong’s sea boat, which then brought the injured sailors to the patrol boat.
The task was made more difficult by the need to make the transfer at night in the open sea.
Medics from Wollongong first boarded POSH Shearwater to check and prepare the two men for transfer to the patrol boat.
Once on board Wollongong, the two sailors received medical treatment from the patrol boat’s crew and were taken to Darwin on 15 May for further treatment.
Lieutenant Commander Ben Reilly, Commanding Officer of HMAS Wollongong, said the difficult part of transferring the men to the patrol boat was getting them off the ship and into Wollongong’s small boat, a task complicated by one man having suspected back injuries.
“That’s always the difficult part when you’re doing transfers at sea, particularly at night,” Lieutenant Commander Reilly said.
“The task was made easier with the excellent cooperation of the Indonesian ship’s crew.
“They stopped in the water for us and gave us a good position for our boats to come alongside.”
Leading Seaman Lisa Russell, Cook and Primary Healthcare Provider, said the two sailors were more than happy to be collected by Wollongong’s crew.
“They were both pretty excited,” she said. “They said they felt like they were treated like kings.”
Major General Shane Caughey, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, said the swift re-tasking of Wollongong was made possible thanks to the extremely close relationship between Rescue Coordination Centre – Australia (RCC-A) and the Australian Defence Force’s Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC).
“Following a phone call from RCC Australia to Headquarters Joint Operations Command, our people made ready to help,” Major General Caughey said.
“HMAS Wollongong’s ability to quickly divert to a rescue mission underlines the diversity of tasks our armed forces can undertake at any given moment.”
Press Release, May 16, 2014; Image: Australian Navy